ECONOMY
REPORT OF PUNJAB VIDHAN SABHA COMMITTEE TO HELP SUICIDE-AFFECTED FAMILIES
Assembly panel finds farmers not paid ACP share since 1981, then stays mum about it
- S Pal
Assembly panel finds farmers not paid ACP share since 1981, then stays mum about it



IN A RATHER bizarre case of becoming aware about a blatant case of injustice and then deciding to do nothing about it, the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Committee, tasked with ameliorating the lot of suicide-affected families, made a shocking revelation that the sugarcane farmers of Punjab were paid the Additional Cane Price due to them only once in 1981 and never again, but did nothing about it.

The 5-member Committee decided not to make any recommendation that the farmers be paid these dues at least from this year onwards, if not retrospectively, even though the amount is rightfully theirs under the law.

Dwelling upon the woes of the sugarcane farmers, the Committee, in its 99-page report tabled in the Punjab Assembly on the last day of the Budget Session, said it has learnt, courtesy farmers' unions, that as per the Sugarcane Act, after the crushing season, excluding the average sugar recovery, it was the government's job to calculate the sugar production beyond the 8.5% norm, and the resultant profits are to be given to the farmers as Additional Cane Price (ACP).

"It is the duty of the government to compute this price component and ensure payment to the farmers," the Committee wrote, and even added, "So far, only once, in 1981, were the farmers paid this (ACP) and since then, they have not been paid their dues on this account." (Page 49)

However, when it came to making its final recommendation, the Committee merely said, "The state government, in order to encourage sugarcane farmers, should affix the price of sugarcane equivalent to the highest price obtainable in any state of India. Also, arrangement should be made so that the farmers received the payment for the sugarcane within one week of the cane sale." 
 

It did not even mention the ACP dues, and did not even ask the government to consider the issue or study why farmers were not being paid the ACP despite the fact that the Sugarcane Act provides for this right.
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Under Sugarcane Act, the Additional Cane Price component of the profit accrued from sugar produced above and beyond the average, was paid to the farmers only once in 1981, and never again. 
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Why did such a powerful Committee of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, even after coming to know of the utter injustice and illegality that has allowed the sugar mills to pocket this significant profit component which was due to the farmers, did not utter a single word about it, is beyond comprehension. 

Punjab's cane growers have been demanding a hike in the State Assured Price (SAP) for the past four years but the state government — the earlier Badal regime as well as Amarinder Singh's — is widely perceived to be kowtowing to the private sugar mills, owned by big business houses.

Just seven big mills crush 70% cane grown in Punjab. The president of a leading body of cane growers, the Doaba Sangharsh Committee, Manjit Singh Rai said the mills earn huge profits but do not want to pay a just price to the farmers.
 

Come winters, and Punjab witnesses protests by cane growers in the month of November. The Punjab Vidhan Sabha Committee made no mention of these. The state has 16 sugarcane mills in Punjab, including 7 private and 9 state-owned co-operative mills, but readers should not make deductions from the sheer number of these mills.
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The committee found out about this anomaly, acknowledged it, but did not include it in its recommendation.
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The fact is that the 7 private mills have a capacity of around 32,000 TCD (tonnes crushed per day) against 15,766 TCD of nine cooperative mills.

With the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Committee even taking note of the fact that the mills have been gulping the ACP share of the farmers, and then doing nothing about it, the cane growers of the state can shut the door on any hope of receiving what is rightfully theirs.

The Punjab Government did not increase the SAP for four years, and the Assembly Committee did not care to even mention this fact. Only in late 2017, the Punjab Cabinet enhanced the SAP by Rs 10 per quintal. It still remains below even neighbour Haryana's SAP.
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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